(without visiting Ikea!)
Unfortunately for a lot of us the instant connection made when we think of Swedish design is world-wide home interiors giant Ikea, but there is so much more to beautiful traditional Swedish interior design than this.
Natural materials, light-reflecting mirrors, fireplaces, stylish functional furniture and cosy textiles all combine to create an elegant yet homely place to live; a look that could work just as well for your home as it does in Sweden.
For inspiration take a look at the work of architect and furniture designer Carl-Axel Acking, who created simple Swedish furniture in smooth, strong shapes, and Lars Bolander, who made the sort of practical open shelving that Swedish homes favour.
Here are the main points to consider if you want to get Swedish style in your home:
Bringing in the Light
Because it’s so dark for a large portion of the year in Sweden, people make the most of what light there is with a lot of mirrors in their home. Whilst you might not have the same problem, mirrors still make the most of your space and help a room appear larger.
Fireplaces, table lamps, candles and chandeliers are also popular; lots of glass and silver items are essential to make the home appear brighter. Any way of bringing in light and warmth and reflecting it around the room is a necessity in Sweden, but can also work beautifully for other areas of the world in dark winter months.
Stoves set into a decorative fireplace are hugely popular in Swedish homes. To get this style check antique shops for a freestanding cast-iron stove.
Nature is celebrated in Swedish homes, and as soon the sun comes out people enjoy it as much as they can. Stencilled wall patterns are inspired by nature, fresh flowers are always on show, and wood, leather and glass are popular material choices. Avoid metals and plastics if you want your home to have a Swedish vibe.
The ‘Gustavian’ colours of grey, pale green and pale blue are key to Swedish decor, alongside white, cream and light yellow. Chalky, pastel colours are more popular than brights.
To create some accents deeper colours like gold, red, and ochre are used; keeping the colours natural and earthy is key. If you want to keep to a Swedish colour palette in your home avoid anything too vivid or stark; neon orange is a definite no!
To add some decorative elements to a room against the simplicity of its furniture, fabrics often feature stripe, check or floral patterns. Walls are stencilled with patterns of intricate wreaths, ribbon, diamond, circle or heart motifs. To get this style in your own home you could try stencilling a wall of one room in earthy colours; whilst quite time consuming it is certainly effective.
The Swedish love light blonde wood, such as birch, alder, beech and white pine for their furniture and floorboards. It is left its natural colour and simply treated or white washed.
Cosy blankets and rag rugs are popular to keep rooms cosy and floor insulated. Made from cotton, wool, linen and other such natural materials, these add a splash of colour and pattern to a room whilst keeping everybody warm. Drape a mix of woollen rugs in muted tones and stripy patterns over your armchairs and sofas to get your home cosy for winter – Swedish style!
Whilst Swedish furniture is elegant and attractive in its simplicity, functionality is a key factor to. The Swedish ‘slagboard’ table is an essential; a drop leaf table that is large enough for dinner yet can be folded down to under a foot’s width. The versatility of this style table makes it ideal if you have a small home.
Furniture is made up of straight lines with the occasional curved accent, whilst complicated carved styles are avoided. Wooden sofas are very popular, which combine seating with storage when the top is lifted. Multi-purpose furniture is particularly popular in Sweden, making the most of space and avoiding clutter.
Emily Bradbury is writing on behalf of Antiques to Vintage, an innovative new site that connects antique buyers and sellers from around the world together in one place.
Hell on earth, falukorv and little red cottages
Ever travelled through the Swedish countryside? Or at least seen it on TV? Did you notice that the majority of all buildings – homes, barns, boathouses, every shed – are red?
Red cottages with white corners and other white trimmings are as iconic for Sweden as Dalecarlian horses, a Swedish signature mentioned in many songs: “den röda lilla stugan invid grinden” ( ~ the little red cottage by the wicket).
The history of the red paint goes back to approximately 850 AD. That’s when they started mining in Stora Kopparberget (= the Great Copper Mountain) in today’s city of Falun. Over time, the mine developed to a major industrial center, at times delivering two thirds of all copper used in Europe.
In 1347 AD, a Letter of Privileges was issued by king Magnus Eriksson for the foundation of Stora Kopparbergs Bergslag. Today, having extended its operations to several other industrial sectors under the name Stora Enso, this company is considered to be the oldest company in the world still in business.
The ore in Stora Kopparberget contains not only copper, but also sulfur, iron and several other minerals. The methods for extraction were rather primitive and very destructive to the environment. Visitors to the area described the place as a hell on earth, covered by thick black smoke, stinking of pungent sulfur. The air in the nearby city of Falun was so thick of soot and sulfur that people ran into each other, not being able to see more than a few feet. The mine itself was a narrow hole in the ground more than 1,000 ft deep, and there was no vegetation around it for several miles in any direction.
The great scientist Carl von Linné (a.k.a. Carolus Linnaeus) visited the mine in 1734 AD and described it with horror as the hell on earth. He climbed down in the hole on the sinuous and flaccid ladders to find ”twelve hundred black demons working in the caverns, surrounded by darkness, soot and smoke”. The workers died young, coughing, with noseblood, headache, and skin like leather. And the security arrangements were poor: many died in accidents in the darkness. One of the supervisors wrote ”Där går mången till arbetet frisk och röder, Men blir upwindad lytt, förlamad, lem-löös, döder” ( ~ “Many a man goes to work being healthy and red, But is hoisted up maimed, lame, limb-lose and dead.”
The tools used to quarry the rock and copper ore was sledgehammers, chisels and wrecking bars. But before the workers could use these tools, they had to make the rock crack, creating small fissures and become brittle: this was achieved by lighting a fire against the rock wall, keeping it burning for many hours, and finally pour cold water on the rock. This procedure smothered the clime with black sulfurous smoke and a haze of foul-smelling steam. And once the ore had been hoisted to the ground level, it had to be further roasted for several months (!) to get rid of the sulfur content, before it could be refined to copper. Huge amounts of wood was needed; it is estimated that in the middle of the 17th century, more than 3,000,000 cubic feet of wood was burned each year. In 1687 AD, the mine collapsed and created the giant hole that can be seen today.
The smoke from the open fires contained not only sulfur dioxide but also arsenic, lead, and mercury. The consequences were scary: all vegetation around Falun died, wildlife fleed and fish died. In short, Stora Kopparberget was a major ecological disaster. The mine was finally closed down in 1992, and since 2001 it has been defined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, the mine is open for visitors with guided tours in the underground. (With greatly improved security.)
Now, what has this to do with falukorv and little red cottages? By the way, what is falukorv? Wikipedia defines it like this:
”Falukorv is a large Swedish sausage made of a grated mixture of pork and beef or veal with potato starch flour and mild spices. …
In the EU, restrictions apply to what may be labeled ‘Falukorv’ since 2001.”
In plain language, falukorv is one of the most common dishes found on Swedish tables; sliced and fried, baked with cheese and onions, grilled, chopped and mixed with fried potatoes and herbs,… The size of a typical falukorv is about 1 kg.
The mild flavor allows you to add any spice you like – it’s a versatile base for everyday’s dinner. Falukorv means “sausage from Falun” (sausage translates to “korv” in Swedish). But why is it named after Falun?
The ore quarried at Stora Kopparberget had to be hoisted 1,000 ft to reach ground level: this was accomplished by oxen walking in large treadmills. The oxen were of course exposed to the same hazardous smoke as the workers and had to be killed – i.e. slaughtered – ever so often. And the meat was used to make large sausages, that had to be “exported” to other parts of the country… the number of slaughtered oxen and the amounts of produced falukorv were bigger than what could be consumed in the vicinity.
And what about the little red cottages?
A second reason for the time-consuming roasting of the ore (besides getting rid of the sulfur) was to oxidize and thus get rid of the content of iron, which created a cinder of red iron ocher or hematite, called rödmull ( ~ red soil). This was regarded as garbage and was piled up beside the mine. A few hundred years ago, someone noticed that a wooden pole that had been sitting for years in the mound of rödmull showed no sign of rot or decay. This was the start for the production of Falu Röd (Falun’s Red), the paint that soon was on almost every house in the country, since it was cheap and could be mixed on site, boiling rödmull and linseed oil with rye flour and water. (However, since it was rather cheap, people of wealth preferred to paint their houses with more expensive white or yellow…)
The deep red color of Falu Röd is still popular in Sweden and Finland, also imitated in other kinds of modern paint, even if the original still has a large market share. But today you don’t mix it yourself – you buy it in large buckets like any other paint. And it is no longer cheap…
Saturday saw another Royal Wedding in Stockholm as Swedish Princess Madeleine married American/
Englishman (he has dual citizenship. But for coolness sakes, let’s just call him American) Christopher O’Neill. And of course Swedish newspapers and media are all the more happy to report about it.
I’m sitting here in the United States, and haven’t heard a peep about the wedding except being notified by my Swedish friends that I simply must must must report this! (Ok, not true, but I probably should).
Luckily for me, there is the official Swedish Royal Family page where there are official photos that I can use for the wedding. Woot!
Thank goodness for the Internet. I’m digging and digging, and there is tons of information on this fun royal wedding. Official press releases are a plenty, but really quite boring to me. If you want to find out about Princess Madeleine’s dress, or the bridal bouquet, then they are for you!
They do have their own wedding section in the Royal Family page, with a short and sweet interview with the princess about the wedding. All very formal, and not much fun information divulged here.
Aftonbladet is way more interesting with their wedding article. The wedding was conducted in English and Swedish (who would of thought! With Chris being American/
British). He was almost brought to tears too! Those American men, so emotional! Hur kul!
You can bet this is not their only article about the couple. Looking on the right of the page, there are three more articles (in Swedish) about the new now married couple.
The official press releases are all fine and dandy, but I want the juicy gossip. How did these two meet? We know they met in New York, where Madeleine was hanging out. But I want more! I’m not one to usually spy on the rich and famous, but this is the Swedish Royal Family. Exception to be made. Time to turn to my handy dandy… Google!
Oh my goodness folks, and did I find it. Thank you DailyMail.Co.Uk! So here your royal juice. Madeleine was engaged to a lawyer earlier who cheated on her (not kul at all!), so being an awesome Swede, she called off the wedding asap and fled to New York where she met Chris. They fell in love and the rest is history.
But wait, the big gossip here… her younger brother is dating a topless model?!?! Wow! Now that is my kind of royal family
Wishing the best to this new, happy couple! I wonder where they will be living… New York? Stockholm? Both? I suppose you can do that when you are the Princess of Sweden